Hayes Lane feels like OUR home
JOE FRANCIS has revealed the secrets behind Cray Wanderers' rapid rise from the Go Travel Kent League, which they won two year's running and into fifth place in the Ryman League first division at the first attempt, writes Stephen McCartney.
The assistant manager, however, keeps his feet on the ground, after beating AFC Wimbledon 2-0 at Hayes Lane, in front of their highest crowd since moving to Bromley's Hayes Lane ground in 1998.
James Millar's strike after only 112 seconds and a fine solo goal from full-back Sam Wood twenty minutes from time, inflicted the Dons' first Ryman League defeat of the season as well as ending their 78-game unbeaten run in league football, in front of 1082 fans on Saturday.
There is a special, unique team spirit at the club, both on and off the pitch. Their hardworking committee always share a celebratory drink together after the game and so does every player, even though they are ploughing money into landlords' Bromley's coffers.
And it's finding that special type of player - bonding with team mates both on and off the pitch - that is important to Francis and manager Ian Jenkins.
Francis revealed: "When we go to get a player at this club, we think about it hard.
"We not only want that experience, that verve, that push and that drive, but the camaraderie is important.
"Ian and myself are larger than life and that's what we want our team to be - we can win games through that and we beat AFC Wimbledon because of that."
Francis, however, admits the management team won't have any problems motivating the players for Wednesday night's John Ullmann Kent Senior Cup tie with Chatham Town at Hayes Lane with a place in the last eight at stake.
"We've come from the Kent League, we used to go to Greenwich Borough on Tuesday night's and playing Chatham Town at home at Bromley is no trouble for us.
"We will be motivated and this is all about a team that's in our dressing room and were pretty tight - we play for each other.
"You've only had to walk inside the dressing room after beating AFC Wimbledon - the music's on and the beers are flowing - but it's a measured reflection on the game," he insisted.
Cray have proved many people wrong this season and promotion is their aim and after beating AFC Wimbledon - unbeaten in 16 games before their visit to Hayes Lane on Saturday - they are more than capable of fulfilling their ambitions.
Francis added: "Cray have come up from the Kent League and people have asked "Cray who?"
"We've surprised a few people.
"We should be top of the league, we've played games at Hayes Lane that we've dominated and we've drawn 9 games in total and we only needed four wins from them to put us top."
Francis demands more fans to flock through the turnstiles to assist their promotion push.
Playing their home matches at league rivals Bromley's ground is no hindrance for Cray Wanderers - their ground at Oxford Road in Sidcup is unsuitable for the Ryman League without the necessary floodlights, but it stages reserve team games for both clubs.
"It feels like our ground," Francis said, when asked what if feels like playing at Hayes Lane.
"I think maybe if Gary (Hillman) and Jerry (Dolke) (Cray and Bromley chairmen) weren't so close as friends then it would feel like we were lodgers.
"But what we do need is maybe a few of them disgruntled Bromley fans to come and watch us.
"I know we get a few surrogate supporters here each week.
"It would be nice to get 300 every week.
"It would make hell of a difference!"
Cray Wanderers v Chatham Town
John Ullmann Kent Senior Cup First Round
Wednesday 8th December 2004
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Hayes Lane, Bromley